Dunfermline Athletic

Dec’s unfinished business

Wednesday, 7th Apr 2021

Number ten has Premiership on his mind as the business end of the season looms

When Declan McManus joined Dunfermline in July last year he described himself as buzzing and delighted to be back but added “I feel that there is unfinished business for me here”. We are now approaching the point in the season that Declan was referring to, and this week he re-iterated his burning desire to win promotion through the play offs with Dunfermline.

In his last season at Dunfermline they went into the 2018 play offs against Dundee United on back of a lengthy unbeaten record and so ended that season really strongly. Dec acknowledged that a strong finish will be required again this time around:-

“As everybody knows we have a tough five games ahead of us. I think we went the ten games unbeaten just before the play offs. We weren’t in as good a position as we are in now. Those ten games took us in to the play offs.

“This time, for me at Dunfermline I am driven by the pain of the last play offs. I felt in the two games against Dundee United that we were by far the better team. Probably we should have got through that tie and then it would have been a tough game against Livingston and then obvious Partick Thistle. We all felt at the time if we could have got past United, we could have gone all the way. It was a tough one to take so it is important to take it at least one step further this time.”

The contrasting fortunes of Livingston who have just secured a top six SPL finish and have gone to a League Cup final, against Thistle who are now fighting to get into the play offs in League One, demonstrates the importance of taking the opportunity when it comes. Declan feels that Dunfermline can still chase a second place finish:-

“We have had a good season and been in the play off positions for most of the season. It is a bit of a cliche but it is five cup finals to make sure that we are in the play offs. We are still in a good position to go and get second as well but that is not in our hands right now, there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing still to go on with other clubs as well.

“In this league I will be surprised if any of the current top four win all five games. That is just this league in a nutshell, anybody can beat anybody on their day and we just need to concentrate on ourselves and we are going into every one of those ‘cup finals’ to win every one. Here’s hoping that we can do that, hopefully take us into the play offs and go from there.”

Last Saturday was a much needed bounce back from what had been a week to forget. Declan did not start against either Dundee nor Raith Rovers but he agreed that to draw with Hearts gave the side a good psychological boost:-

“All in all it was a good point on Saturday but we could have had more. It is a performance that we needed to show people that we are still ready for a fight to go all the way to the play offs. Hopefully it is something that we can take into this Saturday and the other four games to really kick us on.

“I never started at Dundee but that was a tough one to take as well. We did the same to Dundee the last time at Dens to come back from 3-0 down. They came back from 2-0 down and then we did the same to Raith. We beat them 4-1 and then they go and beat us 5-1.

“It was just two games in a short period of time that made it a really negative couple of days. It was two games that we felt that we could win. The first one started off brilliant and ended terrible. The Raith game, it was a derby, we had already beaten them comfortably at East End and then on the night everything seemed to go wrong.

“We had to put that right and going into a Hearts game it is not an easy game. We had played well against Hearts in the previous two games - we beat them and then they narrowly beat us at Tynecastle. For large parts of Saturday’s match against Hearts, Dunfermline looked the better team and on a different day could have taken their chances.

“We knew, as we know going into any game, that we are more than capable of winning them. We just had to get the performance right and I felt on Saturday we did that against Hearts. Our defence was solid with Vytas coming in for his first game. It was always going to be tough for him but he handled it brilliantly.

“The attacking boys created a lot of good chances and on another day we could have had two or three, maybe four goals a and it would have been completely different.

“In hindsight it was a good point and more importantly it was a performance that we needed at this point. It gives us the belief back and a wee push going into the next five games.”

Declan’s start against Hearts was his first in the league since the trip to Dumfries at the end of February. Naturally he was pleased to be back in the starting eleven:-

“Sitting on the bench is never where you want to be. Whatever the manager’s thought process was for the games that I did not start, it was his decision and it was just a case of trying to make an impact when I came on.

“When you get that chance to start again, you need to make the most of it. I was playing in a slightly different position on Saturday against Hearts. I felt that I did it really well and played really well. I was happy with my performance back in the team.”

Declan’s role on Saturday was a number ten role sitting in just behind Kevin O’Hara. He certainly created the chances with Scott Banks and Kevin twice being supplied with wonderful chances:-

“I had to do a bit more defensive work than I would normally do, maybe dropping a wee bit deeper and helping the midfield. I also had the task of providing and starting attacks. Personally I felt that I did that well and created a few opportunities for the boys. On a different day we could have taken two or three of them. “

Despite having scored just one goal since Christmas, Declan is still the Championship’s sixth highest goalscorer (equal with Craig Wighton on seven) but he feels that working for the team important and registering assists is sometimes forgotten about him but it is equally important if his “unfinished business” is going to be addressed:-

“The fact that I do a lot outwith scoring the goals, that is a big part of what I like to bring to the team. Sometimes my consistency with goals gets scrutinised but sometimes people do not look at the other stuff that I am doing.

“When you are playing as an out and out striker, I would totally agree that you need to score goals consistently but I have always been happy to do the other bits, filling in other roles in other positions and do them to the best of my ability.”

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